Written by Greg Barbrick
The final album The Doors recorded with Jim Morrison was L.A. Woman in 1970. It may well be their finest work of all; if not, it is certainly right up there. After the sessions were over, Morrison left for Paris, where he died shortly thereafter. The recent Doors: Mr. Mojo Risin’: The Story of L.A. Woman is a documentary chronicling the making of the album, and of the attendant hoopla surrounding the band in that turbulent time.
The producers did this one right for a change, and managed to interview a number of key players in the saga. These include the surviving members of The Doors themselves: John Densmore, Robby Krieger, and Ray Manzarek. Manzarek’s pompousness used to really bother me, I guess because I didn’t expect someone to be so ridiculously caught up in his own band’s myth. Now I take it with a grain of salt, in fact the things that come out of his mouth provide unintended comic relief here.
Others who provide valuable insights are Elektra Records chairman Jac Holzman, Doors manager Bill Siddons, and friends and colleagues of theirs, including L.A. disc jockey Jim Ladd. When the band’s longtime producer Paul Rothschild declined to work with them on the album, they found themselves in a quandary. The decision was made to produce it themselves, with engineer Bruce Botnick along as co-producer. His suggestion that they record in their rehearsal studio was a stroke of genius, as the guys felt completely at home there. As Robby Krieger puts it, “It was our most spontaneous album ever, because we were recording in our garage.”
Mr. Mojo Risin’ begins with brief history of The Doors, and touches on the issues they were dealing with in 1970. One of the biggies was Morisson’s arrest in Miami for supposedly exposing himself onstage. One of the reasons Rothschild left the Doors to fend for themselves was Jim’s self-destructive habits – especially getting so loaded in the studio that everybody was forced to go home. According to those involved in the L.A. Woman sessions though, he remained (basically) sober for the recordings, and worked as hard as anyone to get the album together.
There is a lot of speculation on the band’s part that he knew that this would be the last album he recorded with them. Not a premonition of his death mind you, but that he was going to Paris, and was done with the rock ‘n’ roll game. The main thought is that he wanted to make the strongest album they could, which would make “retirement” much easier. They certainly achieved it.
The main body of the DVD features Botnick in the studio discussing the various tracks, and how they were recorded. There is a lot of input from the surviving Doors in these segments as well. I really liked Botnick’s take on the song “L.A. Woman.” He calls it “musical noir,” as in film noir. It’s a great description.
The tale of “Riders on the Storm” is another interesting one. The guys were jamming on the old cowboy song “Ghost Riders in the Sky,” and when Morrison heard them, he pulled out some lyrics he was working on. They changed the tempo of the song, and added some jazz elements, and voila! They had the classic-rock perennial down cold.
There are six previously unseen bonus features included, which add up to 35 additional minutes. They are, “John Densmore on L.A. Woman,” “Ray Manzarek Discusses ‘Riders on the Storm’,” “The Doors Guide to L.A.,” “Thoughts on Performing Live,” a live take of “Crawling King Snake,” and finally a photo montage/video for the previously unreleased track “She Smell So Nice.” Mr. Mojo Risin’ tells the story of a truly great album and band.
For Doors fans, it should not be missed.